When Yvonne Bynoe, 61, lost her job as a bookkeeper in March 2009, she also lost her health insurance. Bynoe was dependent on daily medications for diabetes and high blood pressure and could not get her prescriptions filled without a costly doctor visit.
"I was so tired and sick," said Bynoe.
She called the Health Department, but there was a six-week wait.
"What am I supposed to do without my meds?" she asked, in tears. "Do I just curl up and die?"
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Luckily for Bynoe and the thousands of uninsured and underinsured in Charlotte, Care Ring (formerly Community Health Services) is dedicated to bridging the gap when it comes to accessing affordable health care.
Working with a slew of community partners, Care Ring provides access, advocacy and education to individuals with limited resources to establish and maintain good health.
Bynoe, who not only had her prescriptions filled but was given diabetes and nutrition education, said she feels the best she's felt since being diagnosed with diabetes in 2000. She said Care Ring restored not only her health but her dignity.
"You're not just a number to them," said Bynoe. "They have compassion for what you're going through."
Bynoe and several other Care Ring clients told a room of 500 guests their stories at a luncheon designed to illustrate how Care Ring, as director Susan Furtney said in opening remarks, "provides hope to the uninsured and underinsured ... the people who fall through the cracks in our health care system."
Care Ring has a multipronged approach to help people meet and manage health care needs and operate an on-site clinic. The organization partners with more than 1,600 volunteers across the county in its Physicians Reach Out program and provides intensive home visitation and education for low-income pregnant women through the Nurse Family Partnership.
Also featured at the luncheon were Myrlene Vanderbeek, 23; her 11-month-old daughter, Jayda; and Angela Edwards, a nurse with Care Ring's Nurse Family Partnership who regularly visits Vanderbeek and her daughter.
"I was all alone," Vanderbeek recalls of her pregnancy. "And I was terrified. I didn't know what to expect."
Edwards not only taught her how to care for and feed her baby, but also taught her life skills like budgeting and saving time for herself.
"I love empowering these young women," said Edwards. "I teach them that their circumstances don't define them or make them any less of a parent."
Furtney told the room of supporters and donors that "it costs over $91,000 each year to house one youth in juvenile detention today." For that same amount of money, Care Ring can support 18 mothers and babies for a year through the Nurse Family Partnership program and prevent them from ever being incarcerated, according to Furtney.
Furtney also pointed out Care Ring investors get good bang for their buck. Last year, Care Ring had more than $16 million in primary, specialty and dental care donated, leveraged more than $25 in donated services for every dollar invested and provided health care services for $163 per patient per year.
As Boyne said, it is money well spent. "Care Ring saved my life," she said. "I was ready to give up."
In addition to the health care she received, Bynoe said, she values the compassion and respect Care Ring's doctors extended to her.
"That part about 'We are our brother's keeper,'" Bynoe said, "they've got that part down pat."